Mennonites hold die-in, call Rep. to support ceasefire

Mennonites hold die-in, call Rep. to support ceasefire March 30, 2024

MISHAWAKA, Indiana — Over 150 Mennonites and friends from across Michiana gathered outside Rep. Rudy Yakym’s office in Mishawaka on Wednesday, March 27, for a service of lament for the nearly 1,200 Israelis killed in the October 7 attack by Hamas and the over 32,000 Palestinians killed in the subsequent bombardment of Gaza by Israel Defense Forces.

As part of the service, approximately two dozen participants laid on the ground in a “die-in,” symbolizing the thousands of innocent Palestinians killed by bombs and ammunition funded by US tax dollars appropriated by Congress. 

Mennonites lie on ground in a die-in for Gaza. | Credit: Peter Ringenberg

Greg Suderman of Hively Avenue Mennonite Church was one of many who drove from Elkhart to express their solidarity with those who are suffering and to call Yakym to take immediate action for a cessation to the violence. 

“I grieve every day for the people of Israel and Palestine,” he stated. “I grieve for the hostages and their families and innocent Palestinian men, women, children and babies. I grieve for the thousands who are dying of starvation and lack of health care. This war is fostering deep hatred that will not guarantee safety and security for either Israelis or Palestinians.”

During the service, organizers delivered a letter to Yakym’s office, calling him to revoke his unequivocal support for Israel’s military campaign in light of the mass killing, displacement, and starvation occuring in Gaza. Children also wrote notes to Yakym with messages like “Send Food Not Bombs” and “Let Gaza Live.”

Sara Franklin of Keller Park (Mennonite) Church in South Bend attended with her four children, Abby (13), Caleb (11), Ella (9), and Nora (5). Asked why they attended, Abby stated, “I think it’s important to try to do what needs to be done to bring peace.” Caleb stated, “I came because there needs to be change in what the United States is doing.” And Ella stated, “I really want peace for all the kids of the world, and it’s sad the decisions people are making.”

Children write notes to Rep. Yakym | Credit: Peter Ringenberg

Julia Gautsche of Assembly Mennonite Church in Goshen assisted the children in writing their messages. 

“As a mother, grandmother and retired nurse-midwife, I grieve for infants who cannot survive because hospitals are being bombed and cannot provide the warmth, oxygen and care these infants need,” she stated. “I am asking Rep. Yakym to support a permanent ceasefire to save innocent civilian lives, especially these vulnerable and defenseless infants and children.”

Gus Zuehlke was one of several who joined the action from other faith traditions. A lay minister at St. Bavo Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Zuehlke joined the service to express prayerful solidarity with those who are in imminent danger in Gaza. 

“I am joining my Mennonite brothers and sisters in this prayer vigil because people of conscience must pray together without anger or argument when humanity is threatened by war crimes against a civilian population,” he stated. “Fervent prayers based on our own repentance and longing for peace must be prayed in public as a sign of our sincere hope to repair the damage done by wrong-headed government policies that threaten the peace and common good of the world.”

Gus Zuehlke addresses the crowd at peace vigil | Credit: Peter Ringengerg

Wednesday’s action was the latest in a series of actions calling on Yakym to support an immediate ceasefire. 

On December 19, approximately 150 Mennonites sang hymns of peace outside Yakym’s Mishawaka office, while several members of the group delivered a message to his staffers. Yakym later responded by issuing a statement: “While every American has a right to peaceful expression, I unequivocally stand with Israel and their right to defend themselves against Hamas terrorists and their atrocities.”

On January 16, dozens from the Michiana area joined hundreds of Mennonites from across the country for a peace vigil in Washington, DC. There they delivered to Yakym’s congressional office a petition signed by over 5,000 Mennonites calling for a ceasefire.

In recent weeks, Mennonites from the 2nd congressional district have held meetings with Yakym’s staffers to discuss their concerns with his support for the war. Yakym has not yet made himself available for a meeting with constituents on this issue, but his staffers have reiterated his unequivocal support for Israel’s military campaign, despite the mounting death toll and looming threat of man-made famine. 

Sandi Hostetler of Sunnyside Mennonite Church in Elkhart expressed frustration that Yakym refuses to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip, where over a million people have been displaced from their homes and are facing starvation. 

“I am angry and saddened that my tax dollars are being used to provide weapons of war to Israel instead of aid to people starving in Gaza,” she stated. “It is against US law to provide money and weapons to be used for genocide. Rep. Yakym, please call for a permanent ceasefire to prevent more death and destruction.”

George Thompson holds quilt during peace vigil | Credit: Peter Ringenberg

Wednesday’s action was one of dozens across the United States and Canada taking place during the Christian Holy Week — from Philadelphia, Pa., to Pasadena, Ca. — as part of the grass-roots movement Mennonite Action. These actions draw on the Mennonite tradition of peacemaking and nonviolent direct action and are rooted in the Christian belief in the dignity of all human life.

Mennonite Action is a movement of Mennonites bonded by a common belief that we have a responsibility to use our voices as powerfully as possible in service of Jesus’ call to be peacemakers. We are members of an historic peace church who are mobilizing fellow Mennonites and Anabaptists across the United States and Canada to use creative nonviolent actions to demand a ceasefire, end the US and western funded occupation of Palestine, and build for a lasting peace.

About David C Cramer
David C. Cramer is pastor at Keller Park Church in South Bend, Indiana, and managing editor at the Institute of Mennonite Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. He is co-author of A Field Guide to Christian Nonviolence (Baker Academic, 2022). You can read more about the author here.
"An immediate ceasefire is a victory to Hamas. Is that what Mennonites are demonstrating for?"

Mennonites hold die-in, call Rep. to ..."
"I don't know that region very well, but you'd have a good shot if you ..."

Revangelical: Proclaiming the Good News after ..."
"David, I appreciate greatly the kind of Anabaptist/Universal Reconciliation approach that you promote within Evangelical ..."

Revangelical: Proclaiming the Good News after ..."
"Christ is King and our High Priest, for All! period."

What is good news and how ..."

Browse Our Archives